Background Lead exposure has been associated with higher blood pressure, hypertension, electrocardiogram abnormalities, and increased mortality from circulatory causes.
Objective We assessed the association between bone lead—a more accurate biomarker of chronic lead exposure than blood lead—and risk for future ischemic heart disease (IHD).
Methods In a prospective cohort study (VA Normative Aging Study), 837 men who underwent blood or bone lead measurements at baseline were followed-up for an ischemic heart disease event between 1 September 1991 and 31 December 2001. IHD was defined as either a diagnosis of myocardial infarction or angina pectoris that was confirmed by a cardiologist. Events of fatal myocardial infarction were assessed from death certificates.
Results An IHD event occurred in 83 cases (70 nonfatal and 13 fatal). The mean blood, tibia, and patella lead levels were higher in IHD cases than in noncases. In multivariate Cox-proportional hazards models, one standard deviation increase in blood lead level was associated with a 1.27 (95% confidence interval, 1.01–1.59) fold greater risk for ischemic heart disease. Similarly, a one standard deviation increase in patella and tibia lead levels was associated with greater risk for IHD (hazard ratio for patella lead = 1.29; 95% confidence interval, 1.02–1.62).
Conclusions Men with increased blood and bone lead levels were at increased risk for future IHD. Although the pathogenesis of IHD is multifactorial, lead exposure may be one of the risk factors.